Two women with children in the same kindergarten were amazed to discover they had similar stories of being affected by bowel cancer.

They shouldn't be. More women in New Zealand get bowel cancer than anywhere else in the world.

Mary Bradley was 28 when she was diagnosed. She has now been cancer-free for six years.

"I have three boys and I was at kindy with my middle boy when I met Colleen and heard she had bowel cancer. I couldn't believe it. I just said 'I know exactly what you're going through'. We have been friends ever since," she said.


Colleen Fox, 45, said it was a relief to meet Mary.

"Particularly because she's got young children, that's the scariest thing - thinking about not being around for your children," she said.

She has two children and three grandchildren and is halfway through her chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed in January this year.

"Mary was able to tell me what it is like. The doctors tell you but they haven't been through it. You put on weight and the tiredness. You have to stay positive no matter how frightening it is," Fox said.

Bradley launched Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa. She said more New Zealanders die each year of bowel cancer than breast and prostate cancer combined and 2700 people are diagnosed with it every year. More than 1200 die. Bowel cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in New Zealand behind skin cancer.

The Waitemata District Health Board pilot screening programme started in November 2011 and has checked 29,552 people. Of these, 60 were diagnosed with cancer and many more with pre-cancerous polyps. The Government has no plans to screen nationwide, but experts believe a national programme could save one in three sufferers. Symptoms include a lump in the abdomen, tiredness and loss of weight for no particular reason.